Life Through the Spirit
8 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
The verdict is in. My attorney walked me to the front of the courtroom with my head down where I would hear my fate once for all. To tell you the truth. I was so ashamed of my crimes that I had never looked up during the entire trial. I couldn’t tell you what the judge looked like or for that matter anybody on the jury. The prosecutor’s case had been air tight. He began his argument by imagining that I had never been exposed to the law. The transcript of the court record can be foun in Romans 1. He brilliantly and accurately pointed out that even if I had never known the law, that there was a natural law that everybody in the world knew which made my crimes inexcusable even for one who didn’t know the law.
He then turned to me and said, “but in his case, he is even more guilty.” He did know the law! (Rom 2-5). Darn right I did. I knew it, had memorized sections of it, been schooled in it, and brazenly broke it. I had no case. I had no evidence to defend myself, and no resources to mount a defense. The prosecutor brought up witnesses who had witnessed my crimes. My rap sheet was longer than my arm. He reviewed the section in the law where it was clear that the penalty for my crimes was death. Although I deserved it, I didn’t want to die. A shiver went up my spine and my heart sank deep into my stomach. I couldn’t even afford a defense attorney to lie for me. I was stuck with the court appointed Justice of the Peace. He was a kind looking man and he listened compassionately to my story. I couldn’t imagine what he would say in my defense.
Honestly, his defense sounded rather silly to me. I hadn’t been paying much attention in court, but I could hear him saying something about somebody who had already paid the penalty for my crimes. He didn’t dispute the facts of the case. He only said that the facts were irrelevant in light of this new development of somebody who had supposedly taken my punishment for me. “Fat chance that will fly” I thought.
As we sat at the table with my head down on my hands I could feel my attorneys supportive hand on my back. “I don’t know who this guy is” I thought. “But he doesn’t get paid enough to defend crackpots like me.” The judge cleared his throat and I could hear him say, “Jury, have you made your decision?”
“We have.” replied the foreman.
“What say you?” asked the judge.
There was a pause which seemed like an eternity in which I awaited my fate. I was ready to mouth the words with the judge, “Guilty”. But that word never came. Instead the judge stood up and spoke so emphatically and loudly, it seemed like he was reading the verdict so that the whole world could hear it.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!”
My heard jerked up. “What?” Not only could I not believe my ears, I couldn’t believe my eyes. This was the first time I had seen the judge. I looked at the judge and I looked back at my attorney. They were the same! I can’t explain it. Not twins, not relatives, the same! And then my head turned to the jury box for one last amazing sight. All twelve jurors were the same. Not just the same as one another. But the same as the judge and the same as my attorney. Somehow, my attorney was the judge, and my judge was the jury. The judge left his bench and personally came over and handed me the slip of paper with those life-giving words on them.
I turned back to my attorney and lost all control. I threw my arms around him and buried my head on his shoulder as tears poured from my eyes. He was smiling and I could hear the judge in the background explaining this unprecedented verdict to all in the courtroom. The transcript of this can be found in Romans 2:2 through the end of the book. Frankly, I didn’t hear much of it and I’m not sure to this day how well I understand it. I just know that my life has never been the same since that day. I still talk to my Justice of the Peace almost every day. In spite of the mercy of the court, I confess that there are still times that I break the law. I talk it over with my attorney whenever it happens and he asks me if I still have that piece of paper that was handed to me all those years ago when the judge pronounced his verdict. Of course I do. I keep it in my wallet. Today, it’s wrinkled and stained, but the power of those words transformed the rest of my life.